On December 7, 2016, President-Elect Trump unofficially announced retired Marine General John Kelly as his nominee for the cabinet position of Secretary of the Department Homeland Security (DHS). Who is John Kelly and what does this mean for immigration in the U.S. for the next four years if he is confirmed as the new Secretary?
Who Is General John Kelly?
General John Kelly served in the Marines for over 40 years. He is a Gold-Star Father who lost his youngest son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Kelly in 2010 while in Afghanistan during combat. General Kelly’s last post was serving as U.S. Southern Command in 2012 managing security threats from South and Central America. He’s also been at odds publicly with President Obama on the handling of Guantánamo Bay operations.
Based on his history of managing security threats for the U.S. Southern Command, General Kelly is described as vigilant and familiar with the practical threats posed from the south. He’s pursued strategies described as “soft power” rather than imposing overt military force on security threats like organized crime and drugs to protect the southern borders. It is this expertise from which General Kelly can draw if he heads up the DHS.
How Will General John Kelly Lead the DHS?
The good news is that reports indicate General Kelly has been in contact with the current Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson. The bad news is if the General is confirmed, he’ll inherit a troubled agency comprised of seven different sub-agencies.
Customs and Border Protection
One of the promises Trump campaigned on was to build (or extend) a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. As Secretary, General Kelly will have to explore how this campaign promise can be accomplished. Which stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border will receive a “wall”? The Customs and Border Protection agency has been faced with sagging morale and additional walls without strategic interior enforcement efforts may be an exercise in futility.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
In his acceptance for the nomination, General Kelly said
The American people voted in this election to stop terrorism, take back sovereignty at our borders, and put a stop to political correctness that for too long has dictated our approach to national security. I will tackle those issues with a seriousness of purpose and a deep respect for our laws and Constitution.
While it is premature to be speculating, it does beg the question where a Muslim Registry would fit into the constitutionality of the laws of this country. Does General Kelly and President-Elect Trump see eye-to-eye with an ethnic registry? When it comes to national security, would prosecutorial discretion have a place when Immigration and Customs Enforcement is out arresting individuals? Would our deserts be propagated with an influx of detention centers as a means to house the millions of detained immigrants? These are the issues General Kelly will inherit and must answer to voters and taxpayers.
Immigration Benefits and Practices
Perhaps, most curiously on our readers’ minds are how will existing immigration policies change, if at all, under Secretary Kelly?
If the General is focused on border security and national security, will he have time to review policies that improve avenues for entrepreneurship; make it easier for foreign students and scholars to obtain greencards; allow employers wider latitude to recruit foreign workers when they have difficulty filling those positions with U.S. workers; and what will become of the nearly one million DACA recipients who may be left unemployed if DACA is disbanded?
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